Happy Birthday to Terence Harris aka Jet Harris MBE, Born – July 6, 1939 – 18 March 2011
Terence Harris MBE (6 July 1939 – 18 March 2011), known as Jet Harris, was an English musician. He was the bass guitarist of the Shadows until April 1962, and had subsequent success as a soloist and as a duo with the drummer Tony Meehan.
Harris, the only child of Bill and Winifred Harris,[was born Terence Harris at Honeypot Lane, Kingsbury, North West London, England. His prowess as a sprinter at Dudden Hill secondary modern school earned him the nickname Jet.
Although he learned to play clarinet as a teenager, he made his own four-string double bass to play in a jazz group and later graduated to a professionally made double bass. In 1958, while playing jazz with drummer Tony Crombie and his group the Rockets, Crombie got a Framus bass guitar for Harris, making him one of the first British exponents of the instrument.
He played in several groups including the Vipers Skiffle Group and the Most Brothers before, in 1959, joining Cliff Richard’s backing group, the Drifters, who later changed their name to the Shadows at Harris’s suggestion. In 1959, after the neck of his Framus was terminally damaged in a dressing room accident, he was presented by the importers with a Fender Precision Bass, one of the first to come to Britain from the United States.
Other sources state that Cliff Richard gave Jet the first Fender Bass (sunburst) guitar in the UK in 1960 about a year after band-mate Hank Marvin got his first red Fender Stratocaster guitar. Both instruments were eventually replaced with matching versions, used in the film The Young Ones in which the Shadows played “The Savage” (showing the famous Shadows’ walk) to an invited audience of teenagers.
Harris also contributed vocally, adding backup harmonies and occasional lead vocals. He had a trademark scream used in the Shadows’ “Feeling Fine” and Cliff Richard’s “Do You Wanna Dance?”
In Mike Read’s book, The Story of the Shadows, Harris lays the blame for the start of his depression and related alcohol addiction with Carol Costa, whom he married in 1959.
In 1962, he left the Shadows following disagreements (documented in The Story of the Shadows, written by the group with Mike Read).
With Tony Meehan
He signed with Decca and released solo instrumental and vocal work with some success, ‘Besame Mucho’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Arm’ featuring a Fender Vi string bass guitar. Then, as part of a duo with former Shadows drummer Tony Meehan, he topped the UK Singles Chart for three weeks in early 1963 with “Diamonds”. Harris and Meehan followed this with two further hit singles, “Scarlett O’Hara” (also written by Jerry Lordan) a UK No. 2, and “Applejack” (composed by Les Vandyke) reaching UK No. 4 also in 1963. Tracks from “Diamonds” onward were recorded with Harris using standard Fender Jaguar and Gretsch guitars, usually de-tuned to D instead of E. Harris was partly responsible for helping Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones break into the music business. Page’s first major session was as a rhythm guitarist on “Diamonds” in late 1962. After “Diamonds” became a hit, Harris and Meehan hired Jones to play bass in their touring band.
There were several court appearances involving drunkenness and violent behaviour before the partnership with Meehan came to an abrupt end in September 1963 when a car crash on what was then the A44 (now the B4084) near Evesham, Worcestershire, (in which his girlfriend, singer Billie Davis,] was also injured), meant that this success did not last long. Harris attempted a comeback as the Jet Harris Band, in 1966 and was briefly in the line-up of the Jeff Beck Group in 1967, but somewhat fell out of the music industry. He then worked variously as a labourer, bricklayer, porter in a hospital, bus conductor, and as a seller of cockles on the beach in Jersey. Harris and Meehan also made two short cameo appearances in the black and white movie Just for Fun, released in 1963. In the film, Jet and the Jetblacks played “Man From Nowhere”, whilst the duo performed “(Doin’ The) Hully Gully”, a vocal track released as the flipside of their hit “Scarlett O’Hara”.
Harris was declared bankrupt in 1988. The BBC reported that it took Harris 30 years of heavy drinking before he finally admitted to being an alcoholic and sought help. For many years Harris made a point in his stage shows of saying how long it had been since he quit drinking, winning applause from audiences who knew how it had wrecked his career in the 60s. Harris still played occasionally, with backing band the Diamonds or as a guest with the Rapiers, and guested with Tony Meehan at Cliff Richard’s 1989 ‘The Event’ concerts.